Scorching heat and deserts transform the first episode back after the mid season finale from Fear the Walking Dead into a fear of the elements.
The first episode back after the mid season finale and Fear the Walking Dead is heading even deeper into Mexico. In ‘Grotesque’, we follow Nick (Frank Dillane) on a doomed solo mission to Tijuana, to find a place where his new pals, the undead, are not looked upon so sorely.
Mexico has provided the show with a breath of fresh, hot and dusty air. This episode serves as a reminder that nature is the cruel and grizzly culprit behind the walking dead; the landscape proves as much an abomination as the walkers, as Nick is left with no food or water to trudge along the 100 mile stretch to the city. It ran like a raw survival movie, with a little less action and a little more symbolism piled in. Nick is done with fighting the walkers and fighting nature; he sacrifices himself to the elements and nature provides. The walkers help him to evade La Manas, a group of thugs who sweep the road killing anything that takes their fancy – the turkey shoot scene is particularly impressive until you realise how unimpressive the thugs are – and rain falls as Nick succumbs to dehydration. All this is just pushing him further psychologically from his family and the reality that the dead are just that, and nothing more.
Flashbacks provide us with details of Nick’s poignant relationship with his father, while a psychedelic montage featuring talking corpses adds more than a hint of the macabre, and a real sense that Nick is going down the wrong road.
Although it doesn’t completely make sense that Nick, someone who was ready made for a coming apocalypse, would suddenly believe that the zombies are just misunderstood, Nick’s one weakness actually makes him amongst the most vulnerable characters. After proving to be such a strong survivor, some sort of relapse was inevitable. The sense of history repeating as Nick spirals after the unexpected death of his father, someone who he never got to say goodbye to, and had a difficult relationship with, is similar to his now radical stance on zombie life. It just serves as another addiction to add to his self-destructive nature.
Despite complaints that the new show is morphing into the old (not including the much appreciated nod in the featured image of Rick Grimes on horseback on the road to Atlanta – another ill-fated expedition), I would at least stand by some of the characters, Nick in particular, in being different and interesting enough in their own right. Even if his character’s addiction was the excuse for the show to explore a new belief system that has only been sporadically touched upon in THe Walking Dead.
It’s slow moving and provocative at the best of times, as with any Robert Kirkman creation, but ‘Grotesque’ proves to be a great little episode after the 3-month hiatus. The question is whether the rest of the cast and their respective characters could carry an episode as effortlessly as Dillane does with Nick.
Fear the Walking Dead airs on Mondays at 9pm on AMC Global with BT TV, and is available to buy on Amazon Instant Video.